Michael Whitaker: Rider Profile
by David Bartram
Wednesday 31 August 2011
Michael Whitaker is one of the UK’s top show jumpers, having won medals at the Olympics, the World Championships and the European Championships. 51-year-old Michael has had a long and accomplished career in showjumping, and remains one of Britain’s foremost equestrians.
Michael Whitaker grew up on his parents’ farm in Yorkshire. His mother was an avid equestrian and Michael and his three brothers were taught to ride from an early age. The Whitaker family have a high prestige in the equestrian world – Michael’s eldest brother John has also competed at Olympic level. In the next generation, cousins Ellen Whitaker (daughter of Steven Whitaker) and Robert Whitaker (son of John Whitaker) are also top-rated competitive show jumpers.
By age 7 Michael was competing on his own ponies and those of friends. In 1980, at the age of 20, Michael became the youngest rider to win the presitigious Hickstead Derby. In 1993 he took over from his brother John as the world’s show jumping number one. Michael has competed in four Olympic games, winning the team Silver at Los Angeles in 1984. He also has a distinguished record in the European and World Championships. He was taken the King Cup four times and the Hickstead Derby four times.
Michael’s fortunes in recent years have been mixed, including a four month international ban in 2009 after his horse Tackeray tested positive for drugs. The hormone found in Tackeray was from a chemical, Regumate, which can legally be administered to in-season mares. However, its use on male horses is forbidden due to its calming effects. Michael claimed that this was an accident, with feed intended for one of his mares ending up with Tackeray. In 2011 he did not compete in the Hickstead Derby or the Longines King George V Gold Cup, after a late-night disturbance at his hotel. Michael and other guests at his hotel were taken to a police station but was not charged with any offences or disciplined. He apologised to his team-mates and made a donation to charity by way of a general apology.
As one of the UK’s most distinguished show jumpers, Michael is expected to be a key part of Team GB’s show jumping effort at the London 2012 Olympics, most likely on GIG Amai, Beatrice Mertens’ eleven year old dark bay gelding. With such a long and successful career behind him, we can certainly hope that Michael will clinch his second Olympic medal in 2012.
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